Pregnancy 101

Foods to Avoid When Pregnant

The truth is, no food is risk-free, not even the leafy greens in your salad. We aim to educate and empower you to make meaningful dietary choices that feel right for you and your baby.

Our recipes are developed under the caring guidance of an RDN (Registered Dietitian Nutritionist) in addition to a Licensed Midwife in good standing with the California Medical Board who’s also a Certified Professional Midwife as granted by the North American Registry of Midwives and a professional Lactation Consultant as certified by the IBCLC (International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners). While we refer to trusted sources from peer-reviewed medical journals to information from highly regarded worldwide health institutions, this website is not intended to replace medical advice. Consult your personal midwife, doctor, or nutritionist with health questions related to your pregnancy and postpartum journey.

Each country across the globe generates its own list of taboo foods and there’s little agreement about which foods pose certain risk. For example, in Japan pregnant women regularly consume sashimi, Italians still reach for their espresso every morning, and eating eggs is off-limits in Indonesia. 

We choose a balanced approach to risk and benefit when selecting ingredients for our recipes to maximize taste, nutrition, and variety. 

While conventional guidance for eating during pregnancy offers a general list of foods to avoid, data suggests avoiding all such foods may actually deprive your body of essential nutrition.

Educating yourself about the fundamental building blocks of a new human—the proteins, carbohydrates, fats that contain the vitamins and minerals you need to support your body and the growing body of your baby—will allow you to make meaningful dietary choices. 

Intimidated? Don’t be. We’ll show you how and promise to make it delicious! Our recipes highlight whole food ingredients and we promote sourcing locally when possible. Better yet, get to know your local farmer, butcher, fishmonger, and rancher. You’ll be so glad you did. 

Ultimately, when it comes to which foods to avoid when pregnant, we believe giving women adequate information to make their own choices ought to be the focus of any discussion about food safety and optimal nutrition. 

We trust you to make the choices that feel right for you and your family.


Since alcohol may cause birth defects and isn’t bringing any nutritional value to the table, we don’t include it in our recipes. Plus alcohol can cause heartburn, constipation, dehydration, and it should be avoided if you’re a mama with gestational hypertension. Instead, cheers to a bevy of mocktails to wet your whistle! Full disclosure, a few recipes call for kombucha—which contains under 0.5% alcohol.

  • American Pregnancy Association: There is NO amount of alcohol that is known to be safe during pregnancy, and therefore alcohol should be avoided during pregnancy. Prenatal exposure to alcohol can interfere with the healthy development of the baby. Depending on the amount, timing, and pattern of use, alcohol consumption during pregnancy can lead to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome or other developmental disorders. If you consumed alcohol before you knew you were pregnant, stop drinking now. You should continue to avoid alcohol during breastfeeding. Exposure of alcohol to an infant poses harmful risks, and alcohol does reach the baby during breastfeeding.
  • Australian Government Department of Health: Not drinking alcohol is the safest option. For women who are pregnant, planning a pregnancy or breastfeeding, not drinking alcohol is the safest option. 
  • Babylist: Excessive drinking during pregnancy causes fetal alcohol syndrome, and your Ob-Gyn or midwife will almost definitely tell you absolutely no alcohol. That said: there are no studies that say an occasional glass of wine (actually one glass, like 4 oz) has negative effects on babies. As with most things related to pregnancy, if you’re unsure about what’s safe to eat or drink and what’s not, be sure to talk with your healthcare provider.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Alcohol use during pregnancy can cause Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs), which are physical, behavioral, and intellectual disabilities that last a lifetime. It is recommended that women who are pregnant or might be pregnant not drink alcohol at all. The baby’s brain, body, and organs are developing throughout pregnancy and can be affected by alcohol at any time. Drinking while pregnant can also increase the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, prematurity, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
  • Expecting Better (page 35, 41): In the case of alcohol, although all the pregnancy organizations in the United States recommend a policy of abstinence, similar organizations in some other countries indicate that occasional drinking is fine. Binge or heavy drinking in the first trimester can cause physical deformities, and in the later trimesters, cognitive problems. These problems can occur even with infrequent binges. If you are binge drinking, stop. However, this does not directly imply that light or occasional drinking is a problem. When I looked at the data, I found no credible evidence that low levels of drinking (a glass of wine or so a day) have any impact on your baby’s cognitive development. Think about Europe. Much of the continent is much more permissive about light drinking during pregnancy. Heavy drinking is frowned upon everywhere, but some places in Europe have recommendations suggesting that a few drinks a week are fine. An occasional glass of wine or beer is much more common there. Yet there is no evidence of more Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) in Europe; if anything, rates are higher in the United States. It’s hard to know why this is. As FAS  is typically a result of binge drinking, it is possible that it could be due to the United States having more inequality in drinking—a lot of people not drinking at all and a few engaging in binge drinking—as opposed to other countries where most people drink moderately. If having a couple of glasses of wine a week lowered IQ, we would see big differences between the United States and Europe. This is simply not the case. (page 50) My bottom-line read of the evidence is that light drinking does not have any negative impacts.
  • New Zealand Food Safety: It is safest to avoid alcohol during pregnancy or if you are trying to get pregnant. Alcohol crosses the placenta so the fetus is affected by whatever the mother consumes. Excessive alcohol consumption is linked to Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, which may damage your baby’s brain. Even if the mother drinks only small amounts, her baby may show behavioural and learning difficulties linked to alcohol. 
  • March of Dimes: When you drink alcohol during pregnancy, the alcohol in your blood quickly passes through the placenta and the umbilical cord to your baby. The placenta grows in your uterus (womb) and supplies the baby with food and oxygen through the umbilical cord. Drinking any amount of alcohol at any time during pregnancy can harm your baby’s developing brain and other organs. No amount of alcohol has been proven safe at any time during pregnancy.
  • Mayo Clinic: No level of alcohol has been proved safe during pregnancy. The safest bet is to avoid alcohol entirely. Consider the risks. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy leads to a higher risk of miscarriage and stillbirth. Drinking alcohol may also result in Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), which can cause facial deformities and intellectual disability. If you’re concerned about alcohol you drank before you knew you were pregnant or you think you need help to stop drinking, consult your healthcare provider.
  • Real Food for Pregnancy (page 62-64): Alcohol readily crosses the placenta and can impact your baby’s development. Several studies have found conflicting results, concluding that low amounts of alcohol are not harmful. When it comes to alcohol, the evidence is mixed. The general trend from the research is that very low amounts of alcohol are less likely to cause problems than large amounts, but there’s also not a consensus that points to an amount that’s guaranteed harmless. In my opinion, there also aren’t enough nutritional benefits to justify regular alcohol consumption during pregnancy. At the end of the day, I’d want all available nutrients to go to my baby and not be directed towards detoxifying alcohol. Note: The one exception I take is fermented beverages that have naturally very low amounts of alcohol and offer the benefits of probiotics, such as kombucha, a type of fermented tea. Kombucha is typically <05.% alcohol by volume, so an 8 ounce serving will provide less than 1 gram of alcohol. Even overripe fruit can have alcohol concentrations higher than kombucha.
  • United Kingdom National Health Service (NHS): Experts are still unsure exactly how much – if any – alcohol is completely safe for you to have while you’re pregnant, so the safest approach is not to drink at all while you’re expecting. When you drink, alcohol passes from your blood through the placenta and to your baby.A baby’s liver is one of the last organs to develop and does not mature until the later stages of pregnancy. Your baby cannot process alcohol as well as you can, and too much exposure to alcohol can seriously affect their development. Drinking alcohol, especially in the first 3 months of pregnancy, increases the risk of miscarriage, premature birth and your baby having a low birthweight. Drinking after the first 3 months of your pregnancy could affect your baby after they’re born. The risks are greater the more you drink.


While studies indicate moderate caffeine intake (approximately 16 ounces of coffee) is okay during pregnancy, you won’t find any recipes calling for it around here. Why? Well, this stimulant is a diuretic (not so great since your recommended daily water intake is higher during pregnancy) which increases blood pressure and could result in preeclampsia, a disorder of pregnancy characterized by the onset of high blood pressure. Caffeine may cause heartburn and nausea. Plus, it doesn’t add any nutritional value to your life, Mama. Instead, try boosting your energy by: getting more sleep, reducing stress (easier said than done), eating a nutritious diet (we got you), avoiding high-sugar foods, staying hydrated, exercising regularly, and being social.

  • American Pregnancy Association: As a stimulant, caffeine tends to increases a person’s blood pressure and heart rate. Both of these effects should generally be avoided during pregnancy. Caffeine also tends to increase the frequency of urination, thus causing a decrease in body fluid levels and resulting in possible dehydration. Although you might be able to safely process your own intake of caffeine, your baby does not have the same ability because its metabolism is still maturing. Even a small amount of caffeine can cause changes in your baby’s sleep pattern or normal movement pattern in the later stages of pregnancy. Remember, because caffeine is a stimulant, it can keep both you and your baby awake.
  • Babylist:The most conservative recommendations are 200 milligrams of caffeine a day. That’s about one 12-ounce cup of coffee or two and half shots of espresso, and there’s evidence that even more than that doesn’t increase the risk of miscarriage. So don’t hold back on that latte—you’ll get some extra calcium too. The same rules apply for caffeinated sodas and teas. 
  • Expecting Better (page 63): In moderation, coffee is fine. All evidence supports having up to 2 cups. Much of the evidence supports having 3 to 4 cups. Evidence on more than 4 cups a day is mixed; some links are seen with miscarriage, but it is possible that they are due to the effects of nausea. 
  • Food and Drug Administration (FDA): If you’re pregnant, trying to become pregnant, or breastfeeding, or are concerned about another condition or medication, we recommend talking to your health care provider about whether you need to limit caffeine consumption. 
  • March of Dimes: We don’t know a lot about the effects of caffeine during pregnancy on you and your baby. So it’s best to limit the amount you get each day. If you’re pregnant, limit caffeine to 200 milligrams each day. This is about the amount in 1½ 8-ounce cups of coffee or one 12-ounce cup of coffee.
  • Mayo Clinic: While caffeine can cross the placenta, the effects on your baby aren’t clear. To be safe, your health care provider might recommend limiting the amount of caffeine in your diet to less than 200 milligrams (mg) a day during pregnancy. For perspective, an 8-ounce cup of brewed coffee contains about 95mg of caffeine, an 8-ounce cup of brewed tea contains about 47mg and a 12-ounce caffeinated cola contains about 33mg.
  • New Zealand Food Safety: There is evidence that caffeine consumption may affect your baby’s growth during pregnancy. Caffeine occurs in tea, coffee and chocolate, and is present in many cola-type soft drinks. Limit your consumption of caffeinated drinks while pregnant. Energy drinks and shots, which may contain high levels of caffeine, are not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women. Be cautious about drinking herbal teas. Discuss this with your doctor or midwife.
  • Real Food for Pregnancy (page 65-66): What we know is that caffeine crosses the placenta and that a baby’s caffeine levels are similar to mom’s. Also, the rate at which your body eliminates caffeine from your bloodstream decreases over the course of pregnancy. Furthermore, higher maternal levels of caffeine can reduce blood flow, potentially limiting nutrient transfer to the baby. Per usual in prenatal research, we may never have direct evidence because it’s unethical to subject pregnant women to potential harm from consuming a lot of caffeine. At this time, it’s wise to stay on the safe side and keep caffeine intake at or below 200mg per day. That means up to 16 ounces of coffee per day is probably A-okay. If you’re not a coffee-drinker, you’re probably in the clear as it would be hard to consume excessive amounts of caffeine from tea or chocolate alone. Note: if you drink coffee, consider the quality. Conventional coffee production involves the application of numerous pesticides. Buy coffee that is USDA Certified Organic or Rainforest Alliance Certified to avoid pesticide residues.
  • United Kingdom National Health Service (NHS): You can have caffeine, but no more than 200mg per day. There is: 100mg in a mug of instant coffee, 140mg in a mug of filter coffee, 75mg in a mug of tea (green tea can have the same amount of caffeine as regular tea), 40mg in a can of cola, 80mg in a 250ml can of energy drink, less than 25mg in a 50g bar of plain dark chocolate, less than 10mg in a 50g bar of plain milk chocolate.

Deli Meat

When it comes to recipe development, we’re big time proponents of maximum deliciousness—a very technical term we made up. That means we embrace ingredients true to form and when that’s not possible, we avoid em. Most resources suggest heating deli meats to kill off potentially dangerous bacteria. Steaming prosciutto? No thanks. Sliced aged salami zapped into oblivion in the microwave? Hard pass. If given the option between hot ‘n sweaty charcuterie and no charcuterie, we choose the latter. Fear not, you’ll still find plenty of recipes that feature tasty meat treats: from beef and chicken to lamb, pork, and turkey. Headsup: if you’re a mama with gestational hypertension, steer clear of cured meats as they can spike your blood pressure.

  • American Pregnancy Association: If you plan to eat deli meats anyway, we highly suggest cooking them until they are steaming. If the meat is heated to steaming, any present Listeria bacteria should no longer be alive. More than likely everything will be fine, but if at all possible, it is best to find another go-to food.
  • Australian Government Department of Health: Pregnant women should avoid foods which may contain Listeria bacteria like sandwich meats.
  • Babylist: Raw or undercooked meats can carry harmful things like toxoplasmosis and salmonella, while other foods can have listeria. These include: cold deli meats, hot dogs, cold cured meats like salami and smoked fish. To be extra safe, cook meat well and either avoid cold cuts while you’re pregnant or heat them thoroughly.
  • Expecting Better (page 82-83): The last two major Listeria outbreaks prior to my pregnancy were in celery (in 2010) and cantaloupe (in 2011). The cantaloupe outbreak was large, covered many states, and caused 29 deaths. In 2008 there was a large outbreak due to sprouts. When I was pregnant with my son in 2015 there was a large outbreak in ice cream. The last confirmed Listeria outbreak due to deli meats was back in 2005. A lot of these outbreaks seemed pretty random. There was no way to know beforehand that I should have avoided celery in 2010. Part of what makes this bacteria tricky is that it is very difficult to pin down the source of a Listeria infection. There are, however, a couple of consistent causes of Listeria. Over the period from 1998 to 2008, there were 29 outbreaks that the CDC could identify sources for. In 17 percent of them, the culprit was queso fresco (a Mexican-style cheese often made from unpasteurized milk). Another 10 percent were traced to deli turkey. One general rule: Listeria grows well at refrigerator temperatures, so any food that has been sitting around a long time in the fridge should probably be avoided. Ultimately, this is something you need to decide for yourself. The question is not whether a Listeria infection is scary: it is. The question is what decisions you can make to avoid it. It would be difficult or impossible to avoid all foods that have caused a Listeria outbreak—not just deli turkey, but cantaloupes, sprouts, celery, taco salad, grilled chicken, and on and on. Even if you did avoid all these foods, Listeria could well show up in apples next, or pork chops. There’s just no way to know. 
  • Food and Drug Administration (FDA): You need to reheat hot dogs, deli meats, and luncheon meats before eating them because the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes grows at refrigerated temperatures. This bacteria may cause severe illness, hospitalization, or even death. Reheating these foods until they are steaming hot destroys these dangerous bacteria and makes these foods safe for you to eat. 
  • Health Canada: Avoid non-dried deli meats, such as bologna, roast beef and turkey breast. Safer alternatives: Dried and salted deli meats, such as salami and pepperoni. Non-dried deli meats that are well heated and steaming hot.
  • Mayo Clinic: To prevent foodborne illness, cook hot dogs and luncheon meats until they’re steaming hot—or avoid them completely. They can be sources of a rare but potentially serious foodborne illness known as a Listeria infection.
  • New Zealand Food Safety:  Higher risk foods to avoid when pregnant include cold cooked or smoked chicken and processed meats (e.g. ham, pâté, salami, luncheon).
  • Real Food for Pregnancy (page 60): when weighing the benefits and risks of eating certain foods, you must take into consideration the nutrients they contain as well as your chances of getting sick. The source and handling of any food can make an otherwise “safe” food a questionable choice. If, out of personal preference, you decide not to eat soft cheese, eggs with runny yolks, or deli meat, that’s entirely OK. You can also opt for eggs with fully-cooked yolks and to eat deli meat that has been heated to steaming to lessen exposure to potential pathogens, while still benefiting from the nutrients of these foods.
  • United Kingdom National Health Service (NHS): What to be careful with cold cured meats, such as salami, pepperoni, chorizo and prosciutto (unless cooked thoroughly). Cured meats are not cooked, so they may contain parasites in them that cause toxoplasmosis.

Fish with Mercury

Fish provides much needed protein, healthy omega-3 fats (DHA and EPA), and iodine to you and your baby. That’s why you’ll find find plenty of recipes on this site for low-mercury fish including FDA-recommended “Best Choices” (consume 2-3 servings a week): anchovies, cod, salmon, scallops, shrimp, tilapia, chunk light canned tuna, and FDA-recommended “Good Choices” (consume 1 serving a week): halibut and snapper. We encourage you to cook seafood to the FDA-approved internal temperature of 145°F (or previously cooked seafood heated to 165°F).

  • American Pregnancy Association: The FDA recommends eating 8 to 12 ounces of fish low in mercury per week. That amounts to about 2 to 3 servings of fish per week, which can be eaten in place of other types of protein. Make sure to choose a variety of fish lower in mercury, such as salmon, tilapia, shrimp, tuna (canned-light), cod, and catfish. Consumption of white (albacore) tuna should not exceed 6 ounces per week.
  • Australian Government Department of Health: Pregnant women should avoid fish that may contain high levels of mercury. Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) recommend consuming no more than one serve (100g cooked) per fortnight of shark/flake, marlin or broadbill/swordfish, and no other fish that fortnight, or one serve (100g cooked) per week of orange roughy (deep sea perch) or catfish and no other fish that week. 
  • Babylist: Some fish have mercury, which is a dangerous heavy metal. Here’s a convenient wallet card about which fish to avoid. It’s useful for pregnancy and early childhood, too, as mercury can affect your child’s developing brain and other organs. Fish to avoid: Large fish like tuna, shark and swordfish or limit your consumption to once a week. Fish that’s okay to eat: Stick to cooked salmon, shrimp and domestic crab.
  • Expecting Better (page 88): Mercury is bad for your baby. Omega-3 fatty acids are good for your baby. Fish contain both. Your best option is to try to pick fish with a lot of omega-3s and not a lot of mercury. The worst thing you can take from the mercury advice is the idea that you should avoid fish. Fish are great! People who eat a lot of fish have smarter kids on average, even with the greater mercury exposure. Try to pick smart, and learn to love sardines! 
  • Food and Drug Administration (FDA): Eating fish when pregnant or breastfeeding can provide health benefits. Fish and other protein-rich foods have nutrients that can help your child’s growth and development. As part of a healthy eating pattern, eating fish may also offer heart health benefits and lower the risk of obesity. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends: women who are pregnant or breastfeeding to consume between 8-12 ounces of a variety of seafood per week, from choices that are lower in mercury. Please refer to this chart for the Best Choices of low-mercury fish. 
  • March of Dimes: During pregnancy, eat 8 to 12 ounces a week of fish that doesn’t have a lot of mercury, including shrimp, salmon, pollock, catfish and canned light tuna.
  • Mayo Clinic: Seafood can be a great source of protein, and the omega-3 fatty acids in many fish can promote your baby’s brain and eye development. However, some fish and shellfish contain potentially dangerous levels of mercury. Too much mercury could harm your baby’s developing nervous system. The bigger and older the fish, the more mercury it’s likely to contain. During pregnancy, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) encourages you to avoid: bigeye tuna, king mackerel, marlin, orange roughy, swordfish, shark, tilefish. So what’s safe? Some types of seafood contain little mercury. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends 8 to 12 ounces—two or three servings—of seafood a week during pregnancy. Consider: anchovies, catfish, cod, herring, light canned tuna, Pacific oysters, pollock, salmon, sardines, shad, shrimp, tilapia, trout. However, limit white (albacore) tuna to 6 ounces a week.
  • New Zealand Food Safety: Cooked fish is a healthy food for you and your growing baby. Fish is low in saturated fat and an excellent source of protein, essential omega-3 fatty acids, iodine, and some vitamins. Omega-3 is important for the development of the central nervous system. Mercury is a naturally occurring chemical which is always present in seawater and so all fish will have some in their flesh. While the level of mercury found in most New Zealand fish are not of concern, if you are pregnant or considering pregnancy, you can keep the amount of mercury you eat low by eating fish which have lower levels of mercury, and also by eating a variety of fish. Most of the commonly eaten fish species in New Zealand can be eaten freely. 
  • Real Food for Pregnancy (page 40): With increased awareness about mercury and other contaminants in fish, some women have been told not to consume fish while pregnant or to limit it to less than 12 ounces per week. The fear is that mercury is a neurotoxin and could harm brain development, so the logic follows that limiting seafood consumption should limit mercury exposure to protect your baby. Unfortunately, this information is a little misguided. While there are certain fish that are very high in mercury and should be avoided, many other types of fish are perfectly safe to eat while pregnant, even if they contain small amounts of mercury. Here’s why: fish also contain high amounts of selenium, a mineral that readily binds with mercury and prevents it from exerting toxic effects in the human body. According to the Journal of American Medical Association, “Iodine deficiency remains the leading cause of preventable intellectual disability worldwide.” Consuming seafood—in particular, seaweed, scallops, cod, shrimp, sardines, and salmon—is a great way to meet iodine needs.
  • United Kingdom National Health Service (NHS): You can eat cooked fish and seafood, smoked fish such as smoked salmon and trout, raw or lightly cooked fish in sushi (if the fish has been frozen first), cooked shellfish, such as mussels, lobster, crab, prawns, scallops and clams, and cold pre-cooked prawns. Eat no more than 2 portions of oily fish a week, such as salmon, trout, mackerel or herring. You should eat no more than 2 tuna steaks (about 140g cooked or 170g raw) or 4 medium-size cans of tuna (about 140g when drained) per week. Tuna does not count as an oily fish—you can have 2 tuna steaks, or 4 medium-size cans of fish, as well as 2 portions of oily fish. Avoid swordfish, marlin, shark, raw shellfish. Tuna has more mercury in it than other fish. If you eat too much mercury, it can be harmful to your unborn baby. Oily fish can contain pollutants such as dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls. If you eat too much of these, they can be harmful to your unborn baby.

Fresh Caught Fish

When we call for fish in our recipes, we believe it should be sourced from a trusted fishmonger at your local fish market or grocery store. Dive into the possibilities: anchovies, cod, halibutsalmon, scallops, shrimp, snapper, tilapia, and chunk light canned tuna.

  • American Pregnancy Association: Avoid fish from contaminated lakes and rivers that may be exposed to high levels of polychlorinated biphenyls. This is primarily for those who fish in local lakes and streams. These fish include bluefish, striped bass, salmon, pike, trout, and walleye. Contact the local health department or the Environmental Protection Agency to determine which fish are safe to eat in your area. Remember, this is regarding fish caught in local waters and not fish from your local grocery store.
  • Food and Drug Administration (FDA): If you eat fish caught by family or friends, check for fish advisories. If there is no advisory, eat only one serving and no other fish that week.

Smoked Fish

A number of health organizations consider uncooked, refrigeration-required, smoked seafood (e.g lox, nova style, kippered, or jerky) to be risky because it could be contaminated with Listeria. However, shelf-stable, tinned, smoked fish is actually considered A-okay! You’ll find a few recipes calling for non-refrigerated, olive oil-packed smoked fish, and plenty of cooked fish recipes featuring anchovies, cod, halibutsalmon, scallops, shrimp, snapper, tilapia, and chunk light canned tuna.

  • American Pregnancy Association: Refrigerated, smoked seafood often labeled as lox, nova style, kippered, or jerky should be avoided because it could be contaminated with Listeria. (These are safe to eat when they are in an ingredient in a meal that has been cooked, like a casserole.) This type of fish is often found in the deli section of your grocery store. Canned or shelf-safe smoked seafood is usually fine to eat.
  • Food and Drug Administration (FDA): Listeriosis is a foodborne illness caused by a harmful bacterium called Listeria monocytogenes, which can grow slowly at refrigerator temperatures. There is a higher risk of developing Listeriosis with certain foods you eat, including refrigerated smoked fish.
  • Health Canada: Avoid refrigerated smoked seafood. Safer alternatives; smoked seafood in cans, or seafood that does not need to be refrigerated until it is opened.
  • Mayo Clinic: Avoid refrigerated, uncooked seafood. Examples include seafood labeled nova style, lox, kippered, smoked or jerky. It’s OK to eat smoked seafood if it’s an ingredient in a casserole or other cooked dish. Canned and shelf-stable versions also are safe.
  • New Zealand Food Safety: Higher risk foods to avoid when pregnant include raw or smoked seafood (e.g. sushi, smoked salmon, marinated mussels, oysters).


Despite our Francophile views at P&H HQ, we don’t consume pâté on the reg and it’s unlikely you do either. At least that makes it painless to avoid, right?! 

  • American Pregnancy Association: Refrigerated pâté or meat spreads should be avoided because they may contain the bacteria Listeria. Canned pâté or shelf-safe meat spreads can be eaten.
  • Australian Government Department of Health: Pregnant women should avoid foods which may contain Listeria bacteria like pâté.
  • Food and Drug Administration (FDA): Unpasteurized, refrigerated pâtés or meat spreads pose a higher risk, canned or shelf-stable (able to be stored unrefrigerated on the shelf) pâtés and meat spreads are okay to eat. 
  • Health Canada: Avoid Refrigerated pâtés and meat spreads. Safer alternative: Pâtés and meat spreads sold in cans, or that do not have to be refrigerated until they are opened.
  • United Kingdom National Health Service (NHS): Avoid all types of pâté, including vegetarian pâté.

Raw Eggs

Eggs = superfood! We LOVE eggs, especially the yolks. Fact is, eggs pack a serious punch of protein, choline, and omega-3 DHA. Statistically speaking, consuming raw egg yolks poses a minimal risk for potential food poisoning—and it’s a minor risk we’re willing to take, especially if it means mamas will consume more eggs. If/when possible, Certified Humane + Certified Organic + pasture-raised (or free-range) eggs are best. Cooking eggs is all about personal taste and texture preference, so we’ll present you with the option to cook the yolk or keep it raw across our recipes. As with everything else on this list, choose to cook ingredients in a way that work best for you!

  • American Pregnancy Association: Raw eggs or any foods that contain raw eggs should be avoided because of the potential exposure to Salmonella. Some homemade Caesar dressings, mayonnaise, homemade ice cream or custards, and Hollandaise sauces may be made with raw eggs. If the recipe is cooked at some point, this will reduce the exposure to Salmonella. Commercially manufactured ice cream, dressings, and eggnog is made with pasteurized eggs and do not increase the risk of Salmonella.
  • Australian Government Department of Health: Pregnant women should avoid raw eggs as they may contain salmonella. 
  • Babylist: Raw and unpasteurized eggs can carry salmonella, so be sure to cook your eggs. 
  • Expecting Better (page 84): Don’t worry too much about raw eggs—they might carry bacteria, but these bacteria are no worse when you are pregnant than when you are not. 
  • Food and Drug Administration (FDA): At home, use pasteurized eggs/egg products when preparing recipes that call for raw or undercooked eggs. Cook eggs until the yolks and whites are firm. Use only recipes in which the eggs are cooked or heated to 160°F.
  • Health Canada: Avoid raw or lightly cooked eggs, or egg products that contain raw eggs, including some salad dressings, cookie dough, cake batter, sauces, and drinks (like homemade eggnog). Safer alternatives: egg dishes that are well cooked to a safe internal temperature of 74°C (165°F). Cook eggs until the yolk is firm. Homemade eggnog heated to 71°C (160 °F). Tip: Use pasteurized egg products when making uncooked food that calls for raw eggs.
  • Mayo Clinic: Cook eggs until the egg yolks and whites are firm. Raw eggs can be contaminated with harmful bacteria. Avoid foods made with raw or partially cooked eggs, such as eggnog, raw batter, and freshly made or homemade Hollandaise sauce, and Caesar salad dressing.
  • New Zealand Food Safety: Higher risk foods to avoid when pregnant include raw eggs (e.g. in smoothies, mayonnaise or desserts like mousse).
  • Real Food for Pregnancy (page 57): Egg yolks are rich in choline. It turns out that choline has some of the same beneficial effects on a developing baby as folate, including fostering normal brain developments and preventing neural tube defects. Eggs are one of the few non-seafood sources of DHA, a key omega-3 fat that is linked to higher IQs in infants. Choline works synergistically with the omega-3 fat, DHA, enhancing how much DHA is incorporated into cells. It’s not rare for me to have a pregnancy client describe her choice to ditch eggs in the morning in favor of cereal, simply because she was warned that she might get sick from eating eggs with runny yolks. Though that one swap may seem minor, it could limit her intake of protein, choline, DHA, iodine, and a variety of other nutrients. In this case, she’d be replacing all the goodness of eggs with refined carbohydrates (and likely added sugars), which offer zero benefits and potential risks. Some women have been told to avoid eggs (especially if the yolks remain runny after cooking) because they can cause food poisoning. Food safety concerns over eggs have been overstated again and again, especially to pregnant women. According to a 2012 analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), food poisoning due to eggs accounts for only 2% of all food poisoning reports nationwide. It turns out that you’re 8x more likely to get food poisoning from fresh produce than from eggs. Yet, you never hear health officials warning pregnant moms to avoid apples and spinach. Sourcing your eggs from pasture-raised, organic chickens is one of the best ways to reduce the risk of food poisoning, since organic farms have a 7-fold lower rate of Salmonella infection compared to commercial producers. This is likely due to the chicken being raised outside of a confined barn and having a more varied diet, both of which protect against the spread of disease. Even eggs from conventional farms are very likely to contain Salmonella, with estimates ranging from 1 in 12,000 to 1 in 30,000. In other words, very rare. So, put the worries about cholesterol and Salmonella to rest and know the nutritional benefits of eating eggs—with the yolks—are worth making them a regular part of your diet. From a food safety and nutritional perspective, it’s ideal to consume eggs from pasture-raised chickens. Check with local farmers or at health foods stores. If you cannot find or afford pasture-raised, know that eggs from all sources are still a very good source of nutrition and are absolutely worth including in your diet. 
  • United Kingdom National Health Service (NHS): You can eat raw, partially cooked and fully cooked British Lion eggs (eggs with a lion stamp on them), foods with raw egg in them, such as mousse and mayonnaise, if they’re from British Lion eggs. Try to eat British Lion eggs (eggs with a lion stamp on them) because they are less likely to have salmonella in them.Salmonella is unlikely to harm your unborn baby, but you could get food poisoning. If you eat eggs that are not British Lion, or not from hens, make sure the whites and yolks are cooked thoroughly. Avoid duck, goose, or quail eggs, unless cooked thoroughly until the whites and yolks are solid.
  • What to Expect: According to experts, the risks of Salmonella to expectant moms are minimal, especially compared to Listeria, which is particularly problematic during pregnancy. Salmonella, on the other hand, usually just runs its course and isn’t of any specific concern to pregnant women. But in some cases, when expectant women become really sick and the infection gets into the bloodstream, it can cause sepsis, which is a life-threatening blood infection. And while there are reported cases of preterm delivery and miscarriages as a result of the illness, those are exceedingly rare. Salmonella can cross the placenta and infect the fetus, but that’s also extremely rare. It’s most likely to occur if the mom is still sick with the infection when she gives birth. If a baby is exposed during delivery, then he or she may contract the infection. Babies who become ill with Salmonella at birth need immediate treatment because of their vulnerable immune systems. That said, in most cases getting Salmonella may make mom temporarily sick and seriously uncomfortable, but has little or no impact on your baby-to-be. Your baby is really well insulated from illness in your tummy, even if you feel terrible. The largest risk factor is dehydration, which is most problematic to Mom because water is so crucial to the development of your little one. Dehydration can cause preterm delivery, low amniotic fluid and birth defects, which is why it’s important to keep drinking water. A good rule of thumb if you’re vomiting or experiencing diarrhea is to wait an hour or so and then take just one small sip of water every 10 minutes for an hour. If you can keep that down, you can gradually increase your fluid intake over the next few hours until you’re able to drink water without throwing up again.

Raw Fish

Even as avid home cooks, we never prepare raw fish at home. Let’s leave that magic to pro sushi chefs at reputable Japanese restaurants who practice high-quality sourcing, flash-frozen practices, and proper storage and thawing techniques. So, now you know why we won’t have any recipes for raw fish around here. What we do have on the line are a boatload of recipes featuring cooked fish: anchovies, cod, halibutsalmon, scallops, shrimp, snapper, tilapia, and chunk light canned tuna.

P.S. Sushi and sashimi is a super common pregnancy craving. If you find yourself in that boat, scope out the sources below for your safest, low-mercury, wild-caught options!

  • American Pregnancy Association: Certain types of fish used in sushi should also be avoided due to high levels of mercury. Avoid the following sushi with higher levels of mercury while pregnant: ahi (yellowfin tuna), aji (horse mackerel), buri (adult yellowtail), hamachi (young yellowtail), inada (very young yellowtail), kanpachi (very young yellowtail), katsuo (bonito), kajiki (swordfish), maguro (bigeye, bluefin or yellowfin tuna), makjiki (blue marlin), meji (young bigeye, bluefin or yellowfin tuna), saba (mackerel), sawara (Spanish mackerel), shiro (albacore tuna), seigo (young sea bass), suzuki (sea bass), toro (bigeye, bluefin or yellowfin tuna). Enjoy up to two 6-oz servings a week of the following sushi with lower levels of mercury: akagai (ark shell), anago (conger eel), aoyagi (round clam), awabi (abalone), ayu (sweetfish), ebi (shrimp), hamaguri (clam), hamo (pike conger; sea eel), hatahata (sandfish), himo (ark shell), hokkigai (surf clam), hotategai (scallop), ika (squid), ikura (salmon roe), kaibashira (shellfish), kani (crab), karei (flatfish), kohada (gizzard shad), masago (smelt egg), masu (trout), mirugai (surf clam), sake (salmon), sayori (halfbeak), shako (mantis shrimp), tai (sea bream), tairagai (razor-shell clam), tako (octopus), tobikko (flying fish egg), torigai (cockle), tsubugai (shellfish), unagi (freshwater eel), and uni (sea urchin roe).
  • Babylist: The common advice from doctors is to not eat raw fish sushi while you’re pregnant, as raw fish can contain parasites and bacteria that can make you sick. However, if you regularly go to a sushi place and haven’t gotten sick there, you may be okay to keep eating there during your pregnancy. And don’t forget: fish that’s low in mercury is good for you and your baby—those omega 3 fatty acids can help your baby’s brain and visual development. So don’t shy away from eating cooked fish like salmon or tempura rolls.
  • Expecting Better (page 84): Don’t worry too much about raw fish—they might carry bacteria, but these bacteria are no worse when you are pregnant than when you are not. 
  • Food and Drug Administration (FDA): Higher risk: Any raw or undercooked fish, or shellfish, or food containing raw or undercooked seafood, e.g., sashimi, found in some sushi or ceviche.
  • Health Canada: Avoid raw seafood such as sushi, raw oysters, raw clams, raw mussels, and refrigerated smoked seafood. Safer alternatives: Seafood cooked to a safe internal temperature of 74°C (165°F); oysters, clams, and mussels that are cooked until the shell has opened; smoked seafood in cans, or seafood that does not need to be refrigerated until it is opened.
  • Mayo Clinic: To avoid harmful bacteria or viruses in seafood avoid raw fish and shellfish. Examples include sushi, sashimi, ceviche and raw oysters, scallops or clams. Cook seafood properly. Cook fish to an internal temperature of 145°F (63°C). Fish is done when it separates into flakes and appears opaque throughout. Cook shrimp, lobster and scallops until they’re milky white. Cook clams, mussels and oysters until their shells open. Discard any that don’t open.
  • Real Food for Pregnancy (page 58): Aside from mercury, women are often warned to avoid eating raw fish or sushi due to risks of food poisoning, however, that recommendation remains controversial. In Japan, consumption of raw fish is not only common during pregnancy, but encouraged for optimal fetal development. Even more interesting is that I noticed personally (and among many prenatal clients) that cravings for raw fish or sushi are something heightened during pregnancy even when cooked fish was off-putting. This might be a sign your body is smarter than you think. It turns out that in some types of fish, including salmon, bioavailability of selenium is higher when it is eaten raw. Given the role of selenium in preventing mercury toxicity, this could be your body’s way of protecting you. Furthermore, some data has shown that omega-3 fats are more absorbable from raw fish than from cooked fish and that iodine levels are higher (iodine levels drop by up to 58% when fish is cooked). Perhaps your body has your baby’s brain development in mind. One important consideration, if you choose to eat raw fish, is to seek wild-caught instead of farmed fish in order to avoid exposure to antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
  • United Kingdom National Health Service (NHS): You can eat raw or lightly cooked fish in sushi, if the fish has been frozen first.
  • What to Expect: You should avoid sushi during pregnancy — and the same goes for any other raw (oysters, ceviche, smoked salmon) or undercooked fish, since they can contain bacteria and parasites (like Listeria) that are dangerous for your developing baby.

Raw Meat

When it comes to cooking meat, we follow FDA-recommended internal temperatures for all recipes involving beef and chicken to lambpork, and turkey. Cook raw beef, lamb, pork, veal, roasts, and chops to 145°F with a 3-minute rest time after removal from the heat source; ground beef (160°F), ground lamb (160°F), ground pork (160°F), ground veal (160°F); whole/pieces/ground chicken (165°F), whole/pieces/ground duck (165°F), whole/pieces/ground turkey (165°F), and leftover cooked ham (165°F). 

  • American Pregnancy Association: Uncooked seafood and rare or undercooked beef or poultry should be avoided during pregnancy because of the risk of contamination with coliform bacteria, toxoplasmosis, and Salmonella.
  • Expecting Better (page 79-80, 84): Bottom line: toxoplasmosis infection during pregnancy can be damaging to your baby. The risks are small, and you can cut your risk in half by thoroughly washing your vegetables and by not eating raw or rare meat. There is one caveat to this. It is possible that you already have toxoplasmosis. Many people (perhaps 25 percent of people in the United States) carry this bacteria, having been infected sometime in the past—through a cat (if you clean a litter box), through eating or handling uncooked meat, or through gardening (because animals, like cats, poop in the soil). If you have already had this infection, there is no risk for your baby. Having had this in the past is not a problem, and you cannot be reinfected. If you already carry the parasite, you are in the clear. If you are curious, your doctor can test for this at the start of pregnancy.
  • Food and Drug Administration (FDA): Cook raw meat and poultry to safe internal temperatures. Always use a clean food thermometer to check the internal temperature of these foods. Make sure it goes straight into meats, but doesn’t come out the other side and touch the pan. Cook beef, pork, veal, and lamb roasts, steaks, and chops to at least 145° F. Cook ground beef, veal, lamb, and pork to at least 160° F. Cook ground poultry to 165° F. Cook all poultry to minimal safe internal temperature of 165° F.
  • Health Canada: Avoid Raw or undercooked meat or poultry, such as steak tartar. Safer alternatives: Meat and poultry that are cooked to their safe internal temperature.
  • Mayo Clinic: To prevent foodborne illness fully cook all meats and poultry before eating. Use a meat thermometer to make sure.
  • Mother to Baby: Infection of the developing baby only occurs when the mother has an active infection during pregnancy. In general, there is no increased chance to the baby when toxoplasmosis occurs more than 6 months before conception. If you had toxoplasmosis in the past, you are likely immune, which means there is no increased chance to the baby. If you have a weakened immune system, you can develop another active infection.
  • Real Food for Pregnancy (page 60): Defrost frozen meat in your refrigerator overnight (not on the counter). Do not store raw meat in your fridge for more than 2-3 days.
  • United Kingdom National Health Service (NHS): You can eat meats such as chicken, pork and beef, as long as they’re well-cooked with no trace of pink or blood; be especially careful with poultry, pork, sausages and burgers cold, pre-packed meats such as ham and corned beef. There’s a small risk of getting toxoplasmosis if you eat raw and undercooked meat, which can cause miscarriage.

Raw Juice

For recipes that call for fresh juice, we advise you to thoroughly wash the whole fruits and veggies before juicing—and yes, this includes the skins, rinds, and peels. We encourage purchasing local and/or organic produce whenever possible, but realize this may not be financially or geographically feasible for all pregnant women. For easy at-home juice pasteurization, we’ll share an optional step for bringing your fresh squeezed juice to a rolling boil for at least 1 minute to kill off any bacteria. When purchasing store-bought juice, we recommend buying pasteurized juices only to err on the side of safety.

  • Baby Center: Unpasteurized juice may contain harmful bacteria from the raw fruits and vegetables used to make the juice. These bacteria can cause food poisoning (such as listeriosis and toxoplasmosis), which can be especially dangerous during pregnancy. Pasteurization kills these bacteria by heating the juice to a certain temperature for a certain amount of time. Ninety-eight percent of the juice sold in the U.S. is pasteurized. Unpasteurized packaged juice must be labeled with a warning that says: “This product has not been pasteurized and therefore may contain harmful bacteria that can cause serious illness in children, the elderly, and persons with weakened immune systems.” You might find unlabeled fresh-squeezed juice, which may or may not have been pasteurized, at farmers’ markets, health food stores, food co-ops, and smoothie bars. If you’re not sure if it’s been pasteurized, don’t drink the juice unless you first bring it to a rolling boil for at least one minute to kill any harmful bacteria. If you want to make fresh juice at home, you’ll need to first wash the outside of all fruits and vegetables you use (even those with skins you won’t be using) under running water. You may not be used to washing the outside of an orange or lemon, but bacteria on the peel can be transferred to the fruit when it’s sliced. Cut away any damaged or bruised areas, since bacteria can thrive there. If you wash your produce well before juicing it, you don’t need to boil the juice.
  • The Bump: Pasteurization is a process that involves heating at a specific temperature for a set amount of time to help kill harmful bacteria. Unpasteurized fruit and vegetable juices can carry disease-causing bacteria such as salmonella and E. coli, which can not only make you sick but can also occasionally be passed on to your baby. Even a seemingly healthy glass of fresh-squeezed juice at the farmers’ market or a friend’s pool party can pose a threat if the fruits or veggies weren’t washed properly. While the odds of serious complications, including meningitis after baby’s birth, are rare, why chance it? Pasteurized juices are fine, and if you’re craving the fresh stuff, make your own. The FDA recommends thoroughly rinsing raw fruits and vegetables under running water (no soap!) before preparing them, especially fruits with a thick, inedible peel (like melons—yes, even though you don’t eat the peel). Use a vegetable brush for a thorough job, and cut out any bruised or damaged areas, since bacteria like to hang out there.
  • Food and Drug Administration (FDA): When fruits and vegetables are peeled, cut, or fresh-squeezed, harmful bacteria that may be on the outside can spread to the inside of the produce. To prevent foodborne illness, only drink those juices that have been pasteurized or otherwise treated to kill harmful bacteria. Read the label! Also, remember to thoroughly rinse raw fruits and vegetables under running water before eating or preparing them at home. When buying fruit juice from the refrigerated section of the store, be sure that the juice label says it is pasteurized. Only drink juices that have been pasteurized or otherwise treated to kill harmful bacteria. If you can’t tell if a juice has been processed to destroy harmful bacteria, either don’t use the product—or boil it before using it to kill any harmful bacteria. 
  • Health Canada: Avoid unpasteurized fruit juice and cider. Safer alternatives: Unpasteurized fruit juice and cider that are brought to a rolling boil and cooled, or pasteurized fruit juice and cider.
  • Mayo Clinic: Avoid drinking unpasteurized juice.
  • Motherly: Only drink pasteurized juices. The current trend of cold-pressed juices is going strong; and though cold-pressed juices are supposedly healthier and full of nutrients, they are also raw, or unpasteurized. This makes them unsafe for pregnant women. Without the pasteurization process, foods can potentially carry bacteria that put expecting moms at risk for food-borne illnesses such as Listeria, which can cause miscarriages, premature labor, and stillbirths. So if you want to start your day with a fruit or veggie juice, make sure to choose a pasteurized option. You can also look for labels like Flash pasteurization or HPP. If you can, make your own juices. When we make our own food, we know what goes inside our bodies. So making your own juice certainly could be a safer practice. However, make sure to clean all the produce you decide to use with a veggie wash so that you eliminate pesticides and any food borne pathogens lurking around. Also, try to stick to organic produce.

Raw Shellfish

All signs point to avoiding raw shellfish and we agree. You won’t find any recipes calling for it across our collection.

  • American Pregnancy Association: The majority of seafood-borne illness is caused by undercooked shellfish, which include oysters, clams, and mussels. Cooking helps prevent some types of infection, but it does not prevent the algae-related infections that are associated with red tides. Raw shellfish pose a concern for everybody, and they should be avoided altogether during pregnancy.
  • Babylist: You should avoid eating things like raw oysters while you’re pregnant—as raw fish can contain parasites and bacteria that can make you sick.
  • Food and Drug Administration (FDA): Clams, mussels, and other mollusks get their food by filtering large quantities of water through their shells. In doing so, they can accumulate more bacteria and viruses than finfish. This makes raw mollusks particularly unsafe to eat. Seafood that’s been cooked thoroughly is safe to eat.
  • Mayo Clinic: Avoid raw fish and shellfish. 
  • New Zealand Food Safety: Avoid raw shellfish. Don’t eat raw shellfish and foods made with raw fish, such as sushi. These can sometimes contain harmful bacteria and viruses.
  • Real Food for Pregnancy (page 58): Shellfish, such as oysters and clams, account for roughly 75% of seafood-associated outbreaks of foodborne illness. In this case, my opinion is that the risks are not worth the benefits. Unless you are absolutely certain of the freshness and source, I’d ensure any shellfish you eat has been thoroughly cooked. Shellfish is incredibly nutrient-dense and I encouraged you to eat cooked shellfish if you enjoy it.
  • United Kingdom National Health Service (NHS): Avoid raw shellfish. Raw shellfish can have harmful bacteria, viruses, or toxins in it. These can make you unwell and give you food poisoning.

Soft Cheeses

Give us all the cheese, please. We love it. We need it. We can’t get enough. When a recipe calls for high-moisture, unripened, soft cheeses such as cottage cheese, queso fresco, fresh chèvre, Mozzarella, Ricotta, Feta, Brie, Camembert, blue cheese—we will always recommend the pasteurized versions. Statistically speaking, aged raw-milk cheeses like Parmigiano-Reggiano, English Cheddar, Gruyère, and Emmental are way less likely to harbor or grow pathogens like Listeria. We feel that these hard, dry, salty cheeses are excellent sources of calcium, protein, and flavor. Therefore we made the call to allow it in our recipes. If this cheesy logic melts your mind, feel free to omit hard raw-milk cheeses from your pregnancy diet.

  • American Pregnancy Association: Imported soft cheeses may contain Listeria. You would need to avoid soft cheeses such as Brie, Camembert, Roquefort, Feta, Gorgonzola, and Mexican-style cheeses that include Queso Blanco and Queso Fresco unless they clearly state that they are made from pasteurized milk. All soft non-imported cheeses made with pasteurized milk are safe to eat.
  • Australian Government Department of Health: Pregnant women should avoid foods which may contain Listeria bacteria like soft cheeses (brie, camembert, ricotta, feta and blue cheese).
  • Food and Drug Administration (FDA): Soft cheeses made from unpasteurized (raw) milk may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes or other harmful pathogens. Pregnant women should eat hard or processed cheeses, and eat soft cheeses only if they are made from pasteurized milk. 
  • Health Canada: Avoid Unpasteurized and pasteurized soft cheeses, such as Brie and Camembert. Avoid Unpasteurized and pasteurized semi-soft cheeses, such as Havarti. Avoid All unpasteurized and pasteurized blue-veined cheeses. Safer alternatives include: Pasteurized cheeses such as cheese curds, cheddar and cottage cheese. Pasteurized processed/spreadable cheeses such as cream cheese. Pasteurized and unpasteurized hard cheeses such as Romano and Parmesan.
  • Mayo Clinic: Anything containing unpasteurized milk, however, is a no-no. These products could lead to foodborne illness. Avoid soft cheeses, such as brie, feta and blue cheese, unless they are clearly labeled as being pasteurized or made with pasteurized milk.
  • New Zealand Food Safety: Soft, pasteurised cheeses (e.g. brie, camembert, blue, ricotta, mozzarella and feta) should generally not be eaten uncooked while you are pregnant. Higher risk foods to avoid when pregnant include raw milk (unpasteurized), raw milk cheeses, and raw milk yoghurts. Milk and milk products (e.g. milk, cheese, and yoghurt) are important sources of protein and calcium during pregnancy. Most milk products sold in New Zealand are pasteurised, which greatly reduces the risk of bugs that can make you sick. Ideally, they should be consumed within two days of opening, or can be used as an ingredient in cooked foods if older than two days. Don’t eat raw (unpasteurised) milk and raw milk cheeses or yoghurts.
  • United Kingdom National Health Service (NHS): Yes, hard cheeses are safe to eat during pregnancy. Hard cheeses do not contain as much water as soft cheeses, so bacteria are less likely to grow in them. Although it’s possible for hard cheeses to contain listeria bacteria, they’re in such low numbers that they’re not considered to be a health risk to you or your unborn baby. Avoid mould-ripened soft cheeses with a white coating on the outside (unless cooked until steaming hot), such as brie, Camembert, and chevre, soft blue cheeses such as Danish blue, Gorgonzola and Roquefort. Soft cheeses with a white coating on the outside have more moisture. This can make it easier for bacteria to grow.
  • What to Expect: Unpasteurized (or raw milk) soft cheese can be contaminated with listeria, a harmful bacteria that can cause listeriosis. This primarily foodborne infection is particularly dangerous for expectant moms, who are about 20 times more likely to develop listeriosis after eating a contaminated food than other healthy adults are.


Sprouts are difficult to wash properly and simply aren’t worth the risk, Mama.

  • Australian Government Department of Health: Pregnant women should avoid foods which may contain Listeria bacteria like bean sprouts.
  • Babylist: While you want to eats of lots of vegetables and fruit while you’re pregnant, you should probably leave sprouts—like alfalfa and bean—out of your salads, as they can have bacteria. Same with salad bars and prepackaged salads.
  • Food and Drug Administration (FDA): Bacteria can get into sprout seeds through cracks in the shell before the sprouts are grown. Once this occurs, these bacteria are nearly impossible to wash out. Sprouts grown in the home are also risky if eaten raw. Many outbreaks have been linked to contaminated seed. If pathogenic bacteria are present in or on the seed, they can grow to high levels during sprouting – even under clean conditions.
  • Health Canada: Avoid raw sprouts, such as alfalfa, clover, radish, and mung beans. Safer alternative: thoroughly cooked sprouts.
  • Mayo Clinic: Avoid raw sprouts of any kind—including alfalfa, clover, radish and mung bean—which also might contain disease-causing bacteria. Be sure to cook sprouts thoroughly.
  • What to Expect: One of the best ways to prevent listeriosis is to avoid foods that are most likely to be contaminated. These include alfalfa and other sprouts.

Unpasteurized Milk

It’s true, we’re over the moon for dairy. You’ll notice we always call for pasteurized milk across recipes for your safety. Do your best to consume full-fat, grass-fed, and Certified Organic whole milk (and yogurt) whenever possible.

  • American Pregnancy Association: Unpasteurized milk may contain Listeria. Make sure that any milk you drink is pasteurized.
  • Food and Drug Administration (FDA): Unpasteurized (raw) milk may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes or other harmful pathogens. Pregnant women should drink milk only if it is pasteurized.
  • Health Canada: Avoid raw or unpasteurized dairy products.
  • Mayo Clinic: Anything containing unpasteurized milk, however, is a no-no. These products could lead to foodborne illness.
  • Real Food for Pregnancy (page 42): Just like any food, quality counts. Sourcing your dairy products from farmers who raise their cows on pasture (grass-fed) means the milk has higher levels of fat-soluble vitamins and lower levels of pesticide residues (because they’re not munching on conventionally-grown corn and soy). Dairy products labeled “organic” are the next best option, although these animals do not necessarily consume grass, just organic feed (you’d need to talk to the farmer to know for sure). If you can find dairy products that are both grass-fed and certified organic, fantastic. Of course, you only benefit from the fat soluble vitamins if you eat the fat, so seek out full-fat dairy products.
  • United Kingdom National Health Service (NHS): Avoid any unpasteurised cow’s milk, goats’ milk or sheep’s milk. Unpasteurised dairy products may contain listeria. This bacteria can cause an infection called Listeriosis.

Unwashed Fruits and Vegetables

For every recipe that calls for fruits or vegetables we’ll remind you to thoroughly wash your produce, because #mombrain. To be extra precautious, we encourage you to wash the rinds and scrub the firm skins on whole fruits like citrus and melons or tougher vegetables like carrots and potatoes under cool, running, drinkable water.

  • American Pregnancy Association: Vegetables are safe, and a necessary part of a balanced diet. However, it is essential to make sure they are washed to avoid potential exposure to toxoplasmosis. Toxoplasmosis may contaminate the soil where the vegetables were grown.
  • Babylist: Take a little extra time and scrub the dirt off of those fruits and veggies. 
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): If you are planning to become pregnant, your health care provider may test you for Toxoplasma gondii. If the test is positive it means you have already been infected sometime in your life. There usually is little need to worry about passing the infection to your baby. If the test is negative, take necessary precautions to avoid infection. If you are already pregnant, you and your health care provider should discuss your risk for toxoplasmosis. Your health care provider may order a blood sample for testing. If you have a weakened immune system, ask your doctor about having your blood tested for Toxoplasma. If your test is positive, your doctor can tell you if and when you need to take medicine to prevent the infection from reactivating. If your test is negative, it means you need to take precautions to avoid infection.
  • Expecting Better (page 84): Bottom line: toxoplasmosis infection during pregnancy can be damaging to your baby. The risks are small, and you can cut your risk in half by thoroughly washing your vegetables.
  • Food and Drug Administration (FDA): Thoroughly rinse raw fruits and vegetables under running water before eating or preparing them, especially fruits that require peeling or cutting – like cantaloupe and other melons. Bacteria can be found on the outer rind or peel. Toxoplasma, a parasite that can be found on unwashed fruits and vegetables, can be particularly harmful to a mom-to-be and her unborn baby.
  • Health Canada: Before you eat or cook fresh fruits and vegetables: gently wash them under cool, running, drinkable water. You do not need to use anything other than water to wash fruits and vegetables. Use a scrub brush on fruits and vegetables that have a firm skin, such as: carrots, potatoes, melons, and squash. Avoid soaking fresh fruits and vegetables in a sink full of water. Sinks can contain bacteria that can be transferred to your food.
  • Mayo Clinic: To eliminate any harmful bacteria, thoroughly wash all raw fruits and vegetables. 
  • New Zealand Food Safety: Fruits and vegetables may harbour dirt, insects or residues from sprays. Thoroughly wash produce in safe (treated) water. Toxoplasma infection can come from eating unwashed vegetables. The disease caused by toxoplasma—toxoplasmosis—may cause eye or brain damage in your unborn baby. 
  • Real Food for Pregnancy (page 60): Avoid purchasing pre-cut vegetables or fruit, unless you plan to cook them before eating. Cut produce is far more likely to be contaminated with pathogens.
  • United Kingdom National Health Service: Be careful with fruits, vegetables and salads as they can have soil on them, which can make you unwell. Make sure to thoroughly wash all fruits, vegetables and salad ingredients.
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